17th Sunday – The Treasure and Pearl

These two parables sound very similar to begin with. Finding a treasure, finding a pearl, rejoicing and selling everything to buy it. But did you notice? – they’re not identical, they’re symmetrical. They’re “His and Hers” parables, like those perfume bottles that fit together. They express love in opposite – mutual, complementary – directions. On the one hand the Kingdom of heaven is the treasure that someone finds (the lucky person who finds it is us); on the other the Kingdom is compared not to the pearl but to the one who finds it – which means that we’re the pearl. The parable of the treasure talks about our joy in finding God, and the parable of the pearl about his joy in finding us. How beautiful!

The main character in the first parable seems like a smart cookie. He finds the treasure in the field, sells his possessions and buys the field at the going rate, and then digs up his pieces of eight – he’s going to live like a king. He’s much better off than he was! But the merchant, who sells everything he owns for one pearl? He’s crazy.

One of those is us, and one of them is God. 

We are the smart cookie: in exchange for “selling everything” by making our life over to God, we get eternal life, we get God himself, infinite goodness. Biggest bargain ever! But God also sold everything, and the everything he sold is much more than our everything. Christ sold everything, he left his glory behind and poured out his precious blood and he got… me. Keep the receipt God! Have a cooling-off period of 14 days in case you want to cancel your purchase. No: God does not want to cancel his purchase. This image of the slightly crazy merchant who’s so excited with the pearl he has found that he sells everything to buy it is an image of God’s love for us.

The worth that God gives us is hard to understand: just like this merchant’s excitement over the pearl is hard to understand. But we have to believe it. You are God’s pearl. He doesn’t need you; he didn’t need to create you and he didn’t need to redeem you. But he did it, just so he could delight in your beauty. And guess what? When it comes to value, he’s a connoisseur. He’s not a dupe. When Christ decided you were worth the price of his life, he wasn’t being hoodwinked. For sure, you have imperfections, you have flaws, you have sins; and they are ugly. But your beauty is deeper, it’s more truly who you are, and God sees it. He wipes away the sins and you shine. Our Christian life is a process of letting God do that, letting him breathe on us and buff us up like a jewel until we shine with his light. 

God doesn’t just love us – he likes us. We are his pearl. When we understand this, we understand that he is truly our treasure.

Philip-Thomas Edwards, CSJ

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